Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 28 March 2023

Weapons containing depleted uranium

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

Just days after the British government said that it would provide Ukraine with armour-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in neighbouring Belarus.

What is depleted uranium?

  1. Depleted uranium is a byproduct of the process of creating enriched uranium, which is used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons.

  2. In comparison to enriched uranium, depleted uranium is much less radioactive and is incapable of generating a nuclear reaction.

  3. However, due to its high density — it’s more dense than lead — depleted uranium is widely used in weapons as it can easily penetrate armour plating.

Which countries have depleted uranium munitions?

  1. Apart from the US, Britain, Russia, China, France and Pakistan produce uranium weapons, which are not classified as nuclear weapons, as per the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons. Another 14 states are known to store them, it mentions.

What are the risks of using such weapons?

  1. Even though depleted uranium munitions aren’t considered nuclear weapons, experts suggest that such weapons must be used with caution because they emit low levels of radiation and can cause severe diseases.

  2. Ingesting or inhaling quantities of uranium – even depleted uranium – is dangerous: it depresses renal function and raises the risk of developing a range of cancers.

  3. Moreover, according to the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, depleted uranium munitions which miss their target can poison groundwater and soil.

Where have depleted uranium munitions been used?

  1. Depleted uranium munitions were used in the 1991 Gulf War to destroy T-72 tanks in Iraq.

  2. These weapons were again used in the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and then during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

  3. According to the Royal Society, a London-based fellowship of scientists, About 340 tons of depleted uranium were used in munitions during the 1991 Gulf War, and an estimated 11 tons in the Balkans in the late 1990s.

ISRO’s successful LVM-3 launch with OneWeb

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

The second commercial launch of the Indian Space Research Organisation’s LVM-3 saw 36 OneWeb satellites placed in orbit. This was also the second launch that ISRO performed for OneWeb, a UK-based company supported by the UK government and India’s Bharti Enterprises.


  1. It was the sixth launch for India’s heaviest rocket LVM-3 – which includes the launch of Chandrayaan-2 in 2019 – and the second one where it demonstrated the capability of launching multiple satellites in low earth orbit (LEO).

  2. The eighteenth launch of OneWeb satellites brought the constellation’s total number of satellites to 618.

  3. The company intends to use 588 active satellites in its first-generation constellation to provide global connectivity at high speed and low latency.

  4. OneWeb’s high-speedlow-latency solutions will assist in connecting communities, businesses, and governments worldwide, demonstrating the unparalleled potential of LEO (low earth orbit) connectivity.

  5. India has been concentrating on increasing its share of the global commercial space market ever since the country decided to open the space sector to private players in 2020.

  6. It is one of the world’s major space-faring nations, but it only has 2% of the commercial market at the moment. With 36 OneWeb satellites launched in October 2022, the heavy launch vehicle entered the commercial market.

How ISRO’s OneWeb launch happened

  1. OneWeb was initially supposed to launch its satellites through the Russian space agency.

  2. It cancelled the plan after the agency halted the launch amid the Russia-Ukraine war, seeking an assurance from the UK government-backed company that the satellites wouldn’t be used against them and that the British government would sell its stake.

  3. Sunil Bharti Mittal, executive chairman of OneWeb, said: “India stepped up, when we needed them the most.

India’s plans to increase commercial launches

  1. The launches not only established LVM3 as a commercial vehicle propelling ISRO’s entry into the commercial heavier launch market, but it also earned the agency upwards of Rs 1,000 crore.

  2. The service provided to OneWeb, for which the space agency had to move around a few of its missions, ended up earning it one of the highest revenues. And, over the years, there has been an increase in funds that the space agency has generated.

  3. The government plans to increase India’s 2% share in the commercial market to 10% by 2030 through commercial launches by ISRO and launches offered by private companies like Skyroot and Agnikul, which are in the process of developing their own launch vehicles.

  4. Till date, ISRO has launched 384 foreign satellites from at least 36 countries, with at least 10 dedicated commercial missions and several other Indian missions where they were carried as co-passenger satellites. The highest number of these commercial launches has been by companies from the United States.

Centre notifies revised MGNREGA FY24 wage rates

GS Paper -2 (Policy)

The Union Ministry of Rural Development issued a notification on the change in wage rates under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme on March 24.

More about the news:

  • The Centre has notified a hike in wage rates under the rural job guarantee programme for the 2023-24 financial years with Haryana having the highest daily wage at Rs 357 per day and Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh the lowest at Rs 221.

  • The wage hikes, which range from Rs 7 to Rs 26, will come into effect from April 1.

  • If we compare last year's rates,Rajasthan registered the highest percentage increase in wages. The revised wage for Rajasthan is Rs 255 per day, up from Rs 231 in 2022-23.

  • Bihar and Jharkhand have registered a percentage increase of around eight from last year. Last year, the daily wage for a MNREGA worker in these two states was Rs 210. It has now been revised to Rs 228.

  • For Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, which have the lowest daily wages at Rs 221, the percentage increase from last year was recorded at 17.

  • The increases in the wages for states range between two and 10 per cent. Karnataka, Goa, Meghalaya and Manipur are among the states to register the lowest percentage increase.


  • The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is a flagship programme aimed at enhancing livelihood security of households in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer for unskilled manual work.

EU weighs up wood-burning as renewable energy

GS Paper -3 (Environment)

The European Union’s race to rid itself of dependence on Russian fossil fuels is well underway. The International Energy Agency says widespread bids to beef up energy security “turbocharged” growth of green power in 2022, and EU parliamentarians hope to ramp up renewables targets to reach 45% of bloc-wide energy consumption by 2030.

More about the news:

  • The word “renewable” often conjures up images of wind farms or solar panels,less so scenes of burning trees. But biomass, which includes firewood, plants and other organic materials, makes up 60% of the EU’s renewable energy mix according to the European Commission.

  • As the bloc now reviews its landmark renewable power legislation, a political battle over firewood’s future is playing out in Brussels.

EU accused of incentivizing environmental harm

  • New trees can be planted after others have been chopped down; firewood gets the renewable seal of approval under EU law.It means member countries can subsidize wood burning, as long as certain sustainable sourcing rules are met.

  • It focused on raising “awareness, acceptance and reputation of bioenergy.” The organization represents more than 150 energy companies and 40 associations.

  • The companies that responsibly sourced biomassis essential for the EU’s green transition, especially in providing renewable heat.

  • Challenges:

  • Bioenergy needs to comply with strict sustainability criteria that ensure sourcing and use of biomass for energy does not cause any environmental harm or biodiversity loss.

  • It means “EU citizens are paying energy companies to burn forests in the midst of a climate and biodiversity crisis.

Climate impact of wood-burning:

  • The EU officially counts wood and other biomass as carbon neutral, based on the premise that CO2 emitted through burning will be reabsorbed by more trees in the future.

  • The European Academies Science Advisory Council says scientific study suggests the trend to replace coal with wood pellets as a means of generating electricity actually increases “atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide for substantial periods of time.

  • A 2019 EASAC report says the time it takes for carbon emissions associated with wood--burning to be evened out can range from years to decades or even centuries, depending on conditions.

EU institutional showdown over future of firewood subsidies:

  • The European Parliament wants to limit subsidies for burning wood taken directly from forests, and instead restrict state support to secondary wood products like sawdust.

  • Lawmakers also want to phase down the amount of wood that counts toward EU renewable energy targets.

  • It says, the European Parliament proposals would “disturb the practicalities of forest management, lead to further supply shortages of sustainable biomass, and thus impair energy security and increase prices.”

Negotiations on the details of the legislation:

  • European Commission promises tighter forest sustainability rules

    and The European Commission has also put forward plans to tighten laws on which firewood qualifies for subsidies.

  • Under the plans, all wood-burning power plants will also have to meet certain greenhouse gas-saving thresholds.